John Schneider was already a candidate for the Seattle Seahawks’ general manager position when the team bolted from the NFL norm last week and hired college czar Pete Carroll to be its powerful head coach.
Seattle’s new coach is driving the GM and the rest of the organizational train, rather than vice versa. It’s not exactly how the 17-year veteran of personnel moves and recent right-hand man of Green Bay general manager Ted Thompson was used to operations working.
Yet Schneider considered the credentials of Seattle’s coach, the fact Carroll would have equal or more authority than the general manager on personnel issues — and he just shrugged. The boyish-faced, 38-year-old native of rural Wisconsin signed a four-year contract to become a first-time GM anyway.
“When this thing went down with Coach Carroll I had a moment where I thought, ‘OK, that was different.’ But that’s how they had to do it to get a guy of his caliber,” Schneider said of the man who restored a dynasty at USC from 2001 until last week.
“Then I thought, ‘This job is even more attractive right now.”‘
The Seahawks introduced Schneider Wednesday to complete the reinventing of their broken operation that has gone 9-23 since Seattle’s last playoff appearance in January 2008.
Schneider was picked from among four finalists. Team CEO Tod Leiweke said the immediate connection between Carroll and Schneider in last week’s interview was vital in the final decision.
“Most compelling for me is the amazing energy I saw between the man to my right and man to my left,” Leiweke said, sitting between Carroll and Schneider. “They connected, they saw eye to eye and they had a similar philosophy on how they wanted to do this.”
Schneider replaces Tim Ruskell. The Seahawks forced Ruskell to resign as GM and president last month as Seattle was finishing 5-11 and losing its last four games by a combined 123-37.
Schneider began his NFL career as a college intern who “basically stalked Ron Wolf” in 1992 before Wolf gave him a job. He has been the Packers’ director of football operations since May 2008. He was the top personnel assistant to Green Bay’s GM for six years before that. He spent 2000 as Seattle’s director of player personnel in the Seahawks regime of Thompson and former Packers coach Mike Holmgren. He was the vice president of player personnel for the Redskins for one year, 2001, before returning to Green Bay.
His role in Seattle is unique. Unlike most general managers who get say over the coaching staff, Carroll was in place for a week before Schneider’s hiring was made official.
But both Schneider and Carroll said they hit it off from their first meeting. They rambled on during their initial interview so long they kept Leiweke late into the night and from celebrating his 50th birthday.
The team will be built around Carroll’s philosophy and Schneider agrees with that approach, Leiweke said.
“If someday there is a dispute between these two guys and there’s a coin toss, we are going to build the team around this man and his players,” Leiweke said, nodding to Carroll. “Pete wins the coin toss.
“But that’s not an issue, because (Schneider) walked in from Day One saying ‘We have a special coach, and we’re going to build the team around the philosophy of this coach.”‘
Leiweke also clarified that salary cap and contract issues, handled by returning administrator John Idzik, will be under Schneider’s control. Previously, Leiweke believed he’d have three positions atop Seattle’s remodeled football operations: “a cap/contract door” for money and number crunching; a GM door that Schneider will sit behind; “and Pete will have his own, unique door.”
Leiweke said his job will be to ensure collaboration that has worked throughout his business career, including his last several years with Seahawks owner Paul Allen’s Vulcan management company and helping Allen run the NBA’s Portland Trail Blazers and Major League Soccer’s Seattle Sounders.
“We wanted to create a team approach where we’re unified in our goals,” Leiweke said. “It was a heartbreaking couple of years, and in some ways people here deserve better.”
Copyright 2010 by The Associated Press